80 Most Significant Moments

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Anyone trying to pinpoint the 80 most significant moments in Arnold Palmer’s life is going to be subject to criticism and an immediate backlash of “you forgots” and “how could you leave outs?” We’re fairly sure we’d get these letters were Arnie himself to pick the 80; after all, there are far more than 80 notable moments among his monumental contributions to philanthropy, business and genuine American character (not to mention golf).

But which mean more to humanity: the construction of a hospital where more than 100,000 children were born or the seven professional major wins? Which mean more to the man: the 92 professional victories or the birth of his first great-grandchild? Being fortunate enough to know Mr. Palmer a little, we’re positive that any opportunity to do good or influence young people matters more to The King than all the dollars and divots. So, sorry Skins Game ’92, you lose out to addressing Wake Forest grads during the 2005 commencement. And please sit down those in Madrid excited by his Spanish Open victory, the U.S. Navy Memorial has something to say about USCG veteran Arnold Palmer’s honor and courage.

The unenviable task of deciding which moments would make the cut for this list fell to writer Chris Rodell, with the able assistance of arnoldpalmer.com’s Scott Curry. We offer it with the full understanding that many of you will have your own ideas on the subject. Thankfully, Arnold Palmer has provided enough moments in his life for all of us to have our own “Best Moments” list. On his 80th birthday, here’s ours:

But which mean more to humanity: the construction of a hospital where more than 100,000 children were born or the seven professional major wins? Which mean more to the man: the 92 professional victories or the birth of his first great-grandchild?

Being fortunate enough to know Mr. Palmer a little, we’re positive that any opportunity to do good or influence young people matters more to The King than all the dollars and divots. So, sorry Skins Game ’92, you lose out to addressing Wake Forest grads during the 2005 commencement. And please sit down those in Madrid excited by his Spanish Open victory, the U.S. Navy Memorial has something to say about USCG veteran Arnold Palmer’s honor and courage.

The unenviable task of deciding which moments would make the cut for this list fell to writer Chris Rodell, with the able assistance of arnoldpalmer.com’s Scott Curry. We offer it with the full understanding that many of you will have your own ideas on the subject. Thankfully, Arnold Palmer has provided enough moments in his life for all of us to have our own “Best Moments” list. On his 80th birthday, here’s ours:

Palmer at 2
Palmer at 2

1. September 10, 1929
Arnold Palmer is born.

2. February 22, 1934
Winifred Walzer Palmer, beloved first wife of Arnold Palmer, is born.

3. March 23, 1939
Kathleen (Kit) Gawthrop Palmer, beloved second wife of Arnold Palmer is born.

A teenage Arnold Palmer, left, poses with two young friends who played with him on the Latrobe High School golf team
A teenage Arnold Palmer, left, poses with two young friends who played with him on the Latrobe High School golf team

4. September 7, 1947
Palmer steps off a bus at Wake Forest, N.C., carrying a suitcase, a golf bag and a scholarship offer from golf coach Jim Weaver.

5. January 22, 1951
Still reeling over the death of close friend and Wake Forest golf teammate Bud Worsham, Arnold Palmer enlists in the U.S. Coast Guard and reports for duty in Cape May, N.J.

6. June 23, 1954
Palmer wins low amateur in the 1954 Pennsylvania Open at the Hershey Country Club.

7. August 28, 1954
Palmer wins the 54th U.S. Amateur Championship.

8. November 18, 1954
Palmer turns pro and signs a 3-year endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods that will pay him about $5,000 a year.

9. December 20, 1954
Palmer, 25, and Winifred Walzer, 20, run away to “elope” in the Falls Church (Virginia) Presbyterian Church before a small circle of Palmer family and friends—and no Walzers. Palmer’s future father-in-law, Shube Walzer, boycotted because he was convinced his daughter was making a tragic mistake.

10. August 20, 1955
Palmer wins his first professional tournament, the Canadian Open. The putter Palmer uses for his first victory is stolen from his unattended bag. It has never been found.

11. February 26, 1956
Arnold and Winnie Palmer announce the birth of their first child, daughter Peg.

12. March 1, 1956
Palmer begins taking flying lessons at the Latrobe airport that will one day bear his name.

13. July 29, 1956
Palmer wins the first of three tournaments on what will be his most successful calendar date as a professional golfer. On July 29, he’ll win three tournaments in three decades in three different states for escalating first place prizes of $3,800 (1956), $11,000 (1963), and $20,050 (1971).

14. April 6, 1958
Four days after overhearing Ben Hogan wonder aloud “how the hell Palmer got an invitation to the Masters,” Palmer wins the first of four green jackets.

15. August 4, 1958
Arnold and Winnie Palmer announce the birth of their second child, daughter, Amy.

16. January 24, 1960
Palmer wins the prestigious Hickok Belt as the popular men’s sportswear manufacturer’s “Professional Athlete of the Year.”

17. February 7, 1960
Palmer shoots 66 to win the Bob Hope Desert Golf Classic in Palm Springs, California, and $12,000. It is the first of five wins there.

18. April 10, 1960
Announcer Jim McKay’s excited chatter in the booth above the 18th green distracts Palmer as he’s about to strike the winning putt at the 1960 Masters. Palmer backs away, grins up at the now-sheepish McKay, readjusts and sinks the putt.

19. June 18, 1960
Palmer embarks on his most memorable charge to secure perhaps his greatest victory. He begins the fourth round of the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills seven strokes behind leader Mike Souchak.

20. August 27, 1960
Designer Oleg Cassini weighs in on Palmer: “He’s totally inelegant, a representative of the masses. If his pants fit, he wouldn’t have to hitch them up all the time.” Within six years, Palmer sportswear begins outselling Cassini.

21. January 6, 1961
Palmer takes a 12 on No.9 at the Rancho Park Golf Course during the 1961 Los Angeles Open after blasting four straight balls OB. Club members install a plaque commemorating the deed.

22. January 10, 1961
Palmer is awarded the coveted 1960 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

Arnold and Winnie Palmer celebrate The King’s first Claret Jug following his British Open win at Royal Birkdale in 1961
Arnold and Winnie Palmer celebrate The King’s first Claret Jug following his British Open win at Royal Birkdale in 1961

23. July 15, 1961
Palmer secures the title he’s most eagerly sought, the British Open, beating Britain’s Dai Rees by a single shot in the wind and rain at Royal Birkdale.

24. June 16, 1962
Palmer misses an 8-foot par putt on the 9th hole of the final round of the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont during a match that would have him three-putting 13 times over four days to eventual winner Jack Nicklaus’s one three-putt. Years later, Palmer cited the missed putt on 9 as the one he’d most like to mulligan.

25. July 13, 1962
Palmer retains his British Open Championship title with a victory at Troon

26. April 12, 1964
Palmer is at his most dominant as he cruises to a fourth Masters victory, finishing 6 shots ahead of Dave Marr and Jack Nicklaus. It is the last of his seven major professional victories.

27. December 25, 1964
The James Bond film, “Goldfinger,” is released in America and includes a caddie who speculates the arch-villain is cheating, telling Sean Connery as Bond, “If that’s his original ball, I’m Arnold Palmer.”

Palmer and his new Jet Commander
Palmer and his new Jet Commander

28. February 23, 1966
Palmer flies his new Jet Commander to New York for wife Winnie’s birthday, then receives the Gold Tee Award at the Metropolitan Golf Writer’s Association.

29. June 18, 1966
Palmer takes a seven-stroke lead to the tenth of the U.S. Open at Olympic Country Club’s Lakeside course. In one of golf’s greatest collapses, Palmer shoots a four-over par 39 on the back nine while Billy Casper’s 32 forces a Monday playoff, which Palmer loses.

30. September 10, 1966
Dwight D. Eisenhower secretly flies to Latrobe and knocks on Palmer’s door for a surprise birthday visit. Palmer says it was “the thrill of a lifetime.”

31. August 11, 1967
Palmer wins $2,000 at the American Golf Classic at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. The sum makes him the first professional golfer in history to earn more than $1 million in career earnings.

32. August 17, 1967
Golf Magazine takes a peek inside the guest book aboard Palmer’s Jet Commander. Recent passengers include former President Eisenhower, Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Dinah Shore, Dow Finsterwald, Vic Damone, Dave Marr, Doug Sanders, Bruce Devlin and more.

Palmer and President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Palmer and President Dwight D. Eisenhower

33. February 14, 1969
The Palmers visit President Eisenhower at Walter Reed Hospital for coffee and heart-shaped cookies. It will be the last time the friends are together.

34. September 13, 1969
Palmer breaks his own course record from September 23, 1968, with a 12-under par 60 at Latrobe CC. The round included three eagles, eight birdies, five pars and two bogies, one of them on the sixth hole, a reachable par 5. “I’m still kicking myself for that bogey at six,” he says 40 years later.

35. November 30, 1969
Palmer ends a year-long slump by winning the inaugural Heritage Golf Classic in Hilton Head, S.C., Thanksgiving weekend.

36. December 7, 1969
One week after winning at Hilton Head, Palmer launches a vaunted charge to win the Danny Thomas Diplomat Classic.

37. January 12, 1970
Actor Kirk Douglas is asked, of all the famous people you’ve met and known, who possesses more personal magnetism than any other? His answer: “Arnold Palmer.”

38. February 6, 1970
The Associated Press announces Palmer is the Athlete of the Decade, beating out future hall of famers Bill Russell, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Unitas, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Jim Brown.

39. June 8, 1970
From now on, it’s Dr. Palmer after Wake Forest presents the golfer with an honorary doctorate of laws degree.

40. July 25, 1971
Palmer wins the Westchester Golf Classic in Harrison, N.Y. and gets a congratulatory call from President Nixon.

41. September 3, 1971
Arnie and Winnie Palmer become the sole stockholders of Latrobe Country Club, the course where he grew up and learned how to play golf.

42. September 25, 1971
The Wake Forest Sports of Hall of Fame inducts Palmer as a member during the halftime of a game with Miami, as the Wake band spells out “A-R-N-I-E.”

43. February 11, 1973
Palmer beats Jack Nicklaus and a crowded field of challengers to win The Bob Hope Classic. At 43, it is Palmer’s first win in 18 months and will be his last on the PGA Tour.

44. June 17, 1973
Palmer shoots a disappointing final round 72 to finish fourth at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. The bitterness of the loss is soothed by the fact that winner Johnny Miller shoots a record 63.

45. December 23, 1973
Palmer, while at a Bay Hill Christmas party, smokes his last cigarette.

46. February 6, 1976
Deacon Palmer plays 27 holes in the warm sunshine at Bay Hill Club while his son Arnold shoots a 64 at the Bob Hope Desert Classic. Later, Deacon Palmer is found dead in his room of a heart attack. His son often hints that it’s a way he wouldn’t mind going.

47. May 19, 1976
Palmer navigates what some reporters call the greatest water hazards of his career as he circumnavigates the globe in a Lear 36 in less than 58 hours, a world aviation record that earns headlines around the world.

48. January 20, 1977
Jimmy Carter is inaugurated as the 39th president of the United States, replacing Gerald Ford, who in his first act as a private citizen flies a chartered jet to Pebble Beach Golf Course to play golf with Arnold Palmer in the Crosby Celebrity Pro-Am.

49. January 10, 1980
Palmer uses an 8 iron on the 144-yard sixth hole at Indian Wells Country Club during the 1980 Bob Hope Desert Classic to score his 10th career ace.

50. July 13, 1981
Palmer wins the USGA Senior Open at the South Course at Oakland Hills C.C., Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

51. September 3, 1986
Crowds gather in hopes of seeing Palmer ace the same hole three consecutive days at the 1986 Chrysler Cup Pro-Am. Alas, Palmer’s shot goes into the rough.

52. September 28, 1986
A third consecutive Palmer one-putt eagle on the par 5 16th punctuates a final round 68 at the Union Mutual Seniors Golf Classic at the Purpoodock Club in Maine.

53. March 27, 1990
Palmer addresses Congress on the 100th anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s birth: “I spoke from the heart about a man I loved like a second father, and Congress gave me—or should I say President Eisenhower—a standing ovation.”

54. September 6, 1997
Arnold Palmer aces the 122-yard second hole at Latrobe Country Club for the third time. Also on this day exactly 32 years previous, he’d aced during an exhibition in Johnson City, Tennessee.

55. May 29, 1988
The Los Angeles Times reports that Arnold Palmer remains No. 1 in the endorsement field. The paper reports Palmer will earn $8 million in endorsements this year.

56. September 18, 1988
Palmer, 59, shoots a final round 70 to win the Crestar Classic at Hermitage Country Club near Richmond, Virginia, and the $48,750 first place prize. It is his 10th win since turning 50 and his final professional victory.

57. June 20, 1993
President Clinton presents Palmer with The National Sports Award at a gala banquet in Washington.

58. March 17, 1994
Palmer breaks personal precedent and charges a fee for his autograph. Told that business at his grandchildren’s 18th hole lemonade stand is slow, Palmer takes time out from his hosting duties at Bay Hill and agrees to sign autographs for anyone who’ll buy a $1.50 glass of lemonade. Thirty minutes later, the stand closes after taking in $50 and running dry of lemonade.

59. May 8, 1994
Palmer becomes the key early investor in what will become a wildly successful and lucrative cable network, Golf Channel.

60. June 17, 1994
Arnold Palmer, the sentimental favorite, misses the cut at the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, but stirs many in the hometown crowd to tears as he makes his final appearance in a U.S. Open.

61. April 4, 1995
Augusta National honors Palmer by dedicating a plaque to him next to a newly constructed water fountain near the 16th tee. The four-time Masters champ was only the fourth player ever so honored.

Mr. Palmer bids a fond farewell to the British Open in 1995 from the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews
Mr. Palmer bids a fond farewell to the British Open in 1995 from the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews

62. July 21, 1995
Palmer, 65, crosses the Swilcan Burn at St. Andrews for the last time as a professional competitor.

63. July 21, 2003
The K Club, future site of the 2006 Ryder Cup championship, opens with Palmer and his design team on hand for the festivities.

64. September 15, 2003
The 100,000 birth is recorded at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

65. January 14, 2004
Ground is broken for the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando.

66. January 28, 2004
The New Yorker publishes Dana Goodyear’s poetic ode “Oasis” : “We found (like the deserting) spacious calm/ drank a pair of Arnold Palmers underneath a palm.”

67. March 3, 2004
Newspapers report how Palmer and Yankees manager Joe Torre were on a Hawaiian whale-watching cruise when Palmer shamed Torre, then 64, out of thoughts of retiring. “He said, ‘Hey, I’m 74 and I’m never going to retire,’” as Torre recalled Palmer’s scold.

68. March 30, 2004
Palmer aces the 208-yard 17th hole at Bay Hill Club for his 19th and most recent ace.

69. June 23, 2004
President George W. Bush bestows Arnold Palmer with a Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, making Palmer one of just roughly 400 ever to receive the honor bestowed to distinguished Americans in peacetime.

70. January 26, 2005
Arnold Palmer and Kathleen (Kit) Gawthrop, are married on this day in a private ceremony by the sea at Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku, Oahu, Hawaii.

71. May 16, 2005
While giving the commencement address during graduation ceremonies at Wake Forest University, Palmer tells students to find role models who elevate their games and their fellow man.

72. June 22, 2005
She’s played with Bruce Springsteen, he’s played with Jack Nicklaus; but today Melissa Etheridge and Arnold Palmer share the stage in Philadelphia to offer hope and inspiration to cancer survivors like themselves.

73. January 2, 2007
Wake Forest alum Arnold Palmer and Louisville native Muhammad Ali serve as honorary captains for their teams at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Louisville Cardinals win 24-13.

74. April 5, 2007
Arnold Palmer returns to The Masters to hit the honorary first tee shot.

75. May 7, 2007
Palmer and Kit are among 130 A-list guests at a White House dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth II.

76. May 8, 2007
Following the elegant White House dinner, Palmer accepts an invitation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a friend of Kit Palmer’s, to visit the highest court in the land.

77. June 4, 2008
The U.S.G.A. dedicates the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History in Far Hills, N.J. “This is a major championship to me,” Palmer says.

78. September 30, 2008
USCG vet Palmer receives the prestigious Lone Sailor Award, presented annually by the U.S. Navy Memorial to Sea Service veterans “who have excelled with distinction at their respective careers while exemplifying the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.”

79. April 29, 2009
The House of Representatives unanimously passes legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) to award Arnold Palmer with the Congressional Gold Medal.

80. May 19, 2009
Arnold Palmer flies his Citation X from Nashville to Dallas to take part in an HP Byron Nelson Championship luncheon ceremony where he receives the Byron Nelson Prize and a $100,000 contribution to a charity of his choice.

Arnold PalmerBay HillLatrobe Country ClubSt. Andrews
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